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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Follow the money: Ward leads Bielarski, Cammack clears $2 million in campaign contributions

How candidate finances check in ahead of Nov. 8

<p>Voting booths are seen in the Career Connections Center at the Reitz Union on Tuesday, Nov.16, 2021.<br/><br/></p>

Voting booths are seen in the Career Connections Center at the Reitz Union on Tuesday, Nov.16, 2021.

Money talks in politics. And with the general election just around the corner, it’s getting louder.

Past election trends have shown the candidate who spends the most on a campaign usually wins their election. Though the evidence isn’t definite, campaign finance data is typically a solid indicator of the victorious party — the more money spent, the more effective the campaign.

With data from the Federal Election Commission, the Florida Division of Elections and the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, The Alligator looked at where candidates stand financially ahead of the Nov. 8 election. We combined all contributions — both monetary and in-kind — and account disbursements to calculate how much each campaign has earned and spent since the beginning of last year.

Here’s how the major races stack up by the numbers.

Gainesville Mayor

Gainesville’s mayoral race is headed to a runoff, where City Commissioner Harvey Ward and former Gainesville Regional Utilities general manager Ed Bielarski will contend for Mayor Lauren Poe’s vacant seat.

Ward, a registered Democrat, has served as the District 2 commissioner since 2017, and Bielarski, a non-party affiliate, managed GRU from 2015 until it terminated his contract in January. Both are running on platforms of lowering utility rates and transitioning Gainesville to renewable energy

Ward’s contributions and disbursements are neck and neck with Bielarski, according to Supervisor of Elections data. He posts $63,000 in contributions and $53,000 in disbursements, while Bielarski totals $58,000 in contributions and $45,500 in disbursements.

Both candidates’ top donors are individual contributors.

Alachua County Commission

District 1

The race for the Alachua County Commission District 1 seat will see a previously elected commissioner try to win her seat back from her governor-appointed replacement.

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Mary Alford, a registered Democrat, will seek reelection to the seat she held from her election in 2020 until she resigned in May, when a Gainesville Sun investigation found her in violation of her residency requirements. Her challenger, registered Republican Raemi Eagle-Glenn, lost the 2020 election but was appointed by DeSantis to fill the seat following Alford’s resignation.

Data from the Supervisor of Elections puts Alford just ahead of Eagle-Glenn in campaign finances, with Alford’s $16,000 in contributions and $10,000 in disbursements edging past Eagle-Glenn’s $13,000 in contributions and $7,000 in disbursements.

Both candidates’ top donors are individual contributors.

District 2

Two established faces in Alachua County politics will contend for the District 2 seat on the County Commission, as former Gainesville mayor Ed Braddy will take on incumbent and registered Democrat Marihelen Wheeler.

Braddy, a registered Republican, served as mayor from 2013 to 2016 and was a two-term city commissioner from 2002 to 2008. Wheeler, a registered Democrat, was elected to her first term in the commission in 2018 and was appointed chair in 2021, and she unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House in 2014 and the state House in 2016.

Wheeler and Braddy are neck-and-neck in finances, according to Supervisor of Elections data. They both total around $22,000 in contributions, with Wheeler just past Braddy by a few hundred dollars. Wheeler’s $14,500 in disbursements outweigh Braddy’s $11,000.

Braddy’s top donors are businesses like Swamp Car Wash West and Gainesville Self Storage. Wheeler’s top donors are individual contributors.

District 4

The District 4 County Commission race will see not one but two challengers face a long-term incumbent for the seat.

Ken Cornell, a Democrat who was first elected to his seat in 2014, will compete with Van Elmore, a registered Republican, and Anthony Johnson, a non-party affiliate, to defend his position.

Cornell has spent his commission tenure advocating for nonprofits and environmental groups, and he’s campaigning to continue that work for another term. Elmore is running on a conservative platform with values like constitutional carry, enhanced abortion restrictions and stricter budget guidelines, and Johnson aims to lower taxes and bolster public access to commission proceedings.

The incumbent is well ahead, according to Supervisor of Elections data. Cornell’s $79,000 in contributions and $43,000 in disbursements swallow Elmore’s $7,500 in contributions and $7,500 in disbursements as well as Johnson’s $6,000 in contributions and $4,500 in disbursements.

Cornell’s and Elmore’s top donors are individual contributors. Johnson has largely funded his campaign.

Gainesville City Commission

District 2

Two political newcomers will compete for the City Commission seat left vacant by mayoral candidate Harvey Ward.

Ed Book, a former Gainesville Police Department captain and current Santa Fe College Police Department chief, and James Ingle, an electrician and union organizer, will contend to represent District 2 on the City Commission. Book’s campaigning on a platform of increased public transportation and a revitalized downtown, while Ingle aims to increase job security and employee benefits.

Book is ahead of Ingle according to campaign finance data from the Supervisor of Elections. His $64,000 in contributions and $41,000 in disbursements leads Ingle’s $49,000 in contributions and $24,500 in disbursements.

Book’s top donors are individual contributors. Ingle’s top donors are unions and political action committees like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

District 3

A Gainesville native and a new arrival will contend for the City Commission seat left vacant by former mayoral candidate David Arreola.

DeJeon Cain, a former chair of the Alachua County Affordable Housing Committee, and Casey Willits, the UF College of Medicine’s residency program coordinator, will face off for the District 3 seat on the commission. Cain and Willits are both running to lower GRU rates, and Cain said he will seek to repeal the elimination of single-family zoning passed in August

Data from the Supervisor of Elections gives Cain a lead on Willits, with his $19,500 in contributions and $10,000 in disbursements ahead of Willits’ $14,000 in contributions and $9,000 in disbursements.

Cain has largely funded his own campaign, while Willits’ top donors are individual contributors.

U.S. House — Florida’s 3rd Congressional District

The race for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District will see the youngest GOP woman in Congress try to defend her seat against another young Democratic female newcomer.

Rep. Kat Cammack, the U.S House incumbent, is up against Danielle Hawk, who’s running in her first race. Cammack is seeking reelection after she won her first race in 2020.

Politico projects Cammack will win decisively in a solid red region, and FEC data points in the same direction. Cammack posts $2 million in contributions and $2 million in disbursements compared to Hawk’s $58,000 in contributions and $16,000 in disbursements.

WinRed and ActBlue are also the top donors to Cammack’s and Hawk’s campaigns, respectively, each totaling thousands of contributions from individual users who have donated through the platforms.

State Senate — District 9 

Two established faces will battle it out in the race for the newly minted District 9 in the Florida Senate.

Republican Sen. Keith Perry, the current District 8 Senator, will face Democratic challenger Rodney Long, a former Gainesville mayor and city commissioner. Perry has held the District 8 position since 2016, and he served as the District 21 representative in the state House from 2010 until his bid for Senate. Long lost the 2020 Democratic primary for District 20 of the state House to Rep. Yvonne Hayes-Hinson.

District 9 used to primarily cover the city of Sanford, but due to 2020 Florida redistricting, District 9 now encompasses everything south of University Avenue and north of The Villages. Westward, it spans all the way to the coast, and it stops just short of Palatka on the east. 

Perry is ahead of Long in the battle for the district, according Florida Division of Elections data. His $288,000 in contributions and $112,000 in disbursements surpass Long’s $51,000 in contributions and $48,000 in disbursements.

Perry’s top donors are interest groups like Conservatives for Rural Florida and the Realtors Political Action Committee. Long’s top donors are individual contributors. 

State House — District 21

Thanks to redistricting, the race for District 21 of the state House of Representatives puts a familiar face in new territory. 

Democratic candidate Rep. Yvonne Hayes-Hinson, the current District 20 representative, will face Republican candidate Hollye Merton, a retired navy technician, in the general election. The two will compete for the new District 21 seat that encompasses most of Gainesville, save for UF’s campus. District 22 candidate Rep. Chuck Clemons currently holds the position. 

Campaign finance data from the Florida Division of Elections puts Hayes-Hinson well ahead of Merton, with her $71,000 in contributions and $30,000 in disbursements dwarding Merton’s $8,000 in contributions and $7,500 in expenditures.

Hayes-Hinson’s top donors include interest groups like Florida Citizens for Justice as well as companies like Publix and subsectors of Walt Disney Company like Disney Gift Card Services and Disney Photo Imaging. Merton has largely funded her own campaign, contributing $4,000.

State House — District 22

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: An established Republican representative will have to defend his seat against a Democratic challenger.

Rep. Chuck Clemons, who’s held the District 21 seat in the Florida House of Representatives since 2017, will face Brandon Peters, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House seat in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District in 2018. Due to redistricting, the two are running for the District 22 seat held by Republican Rep. Joe Harding. 

The new district encompasses the area west of UF’s campus all the way to the coast, including Newberry and Chiefland but excluding Alachua and Cross City. 

Data from the Florida Division of Elections puts Clemons ahead of Peters, with Clemons’ $347,500 in contributions and $193,000 in disbursements eclipsing Peters’ $178,000 in contributions and $131,000 in disbursements.

Clemons’ top donor is the Republican Party of Florida, which has donated $49,000 across 8 contributions. Subsectors of Walt Disney Company — including Disney Gift Card Services and Disney Photo Imaging — have donated $4,000 to Clemons. 

Peters’ top donors are individual contributors.

Governor

The gubernatorial election will see Republican incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis face off against Democratic former Rep. Charlie Crist, who served as Republican governor from 2007 to 2011 before representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

DeSantis is the favorite in what Politico deems a safely red race, bringing in $36 million in contributions compared to Crist's $15.5 million, according to data from the Florida Division of Elections. DeSantis has also spent $18 million on campaign expenditures, while Crist has spent $15 million.

DeSantis’ top donor is the Republican Party of Florida, which has donated $10 million in 1,673 contributions since the beginning of last year. Crist’s top contributions come from individual donors or special interest groups like the United Teachers of Dade TIGER-COPE and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

U.S. Senate

Longtime Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio will work to fend off  Democratic Rep. Val Demings for Florida’s lone available U.S. Senate seat next month

Rubio has represented Florida in the Senate since 2011 and made a run for president in 2016. Demings, meanwhile, has served as the U.S. House representative for Florida’s 10th Congressional District since 2017, following a decade-long stint as chief of the Orlando Police Department.

The race leans Republican, according to Politico, but finance data from the FEC puts Demings ahead. She’s brought in $65 million in contributions and spent $60 million in disbursements, while Rubio trails at $37 million in contributions and $30 million in disbursements.

Rubio garnered thousands of contributions through WinRed, a Republican fundraising platform focused on getting GOP candidates into office through user donations.. Demings has seen the most contributions through ActBlue, a similar platform looking to put Democratic candidates in office.

Commissioner of Agriculture

Following an unsuccessful bid for governor and no reelection effort from current Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, the statewide spot is up for grabs.

Democrat Naomi Blemur, who was elected to the Miami Dade Democratic Executive Committee, will face Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, the District 10 state senator since 2013 and Senate president since 2019. Data from the Florida Division of Elections puts Simpson ahead with $3 million in contributions and $2 million in disbursements, compared to Blemur’s $89,000 in contributions and $80,000 in disbursements.

Blemur’s top donors are individual contributors, while significant contributions to Simpson come from organizations like the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Florida Public Utilities Company.

Florida Attorney General

The race for Florida attorney general puts Republican incumbent Ashley Moody against first-time Democratic candidate Aramis Ayala, who served as the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit from 2017 to 2021.

Moody was elected in 2018 after serving as the circuit judge of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit from 2007 to 2017. She’ll look to hold her position against Ayala, who briefly ran for the District 10 U.S. House seat left vacant by Val Demings before she announced her candidacy for Attorney General.

Data from the Florida Division of Elections has the incumbent well ahead. Moody’s $3 million in contributions and $948,000 in disbursements tower over Ayala’s $182,500 in contributions and $139,500 in disbursements.

Moody’s top donor is the Republican Party of Florida, which has donated more than $1 million in 421 contributions since the beginning of last year. Most of Ayala’s contributions come from individual donors.

8th Circuit Judge

The race for Judge Monica Brasington’s vacant seat is headed to a runoff in the general election, where two Alachua County judges will contend for the 12th spot in the 8th Judicial Circuit.

Sean Brewer, a prosecutor in the circuit, and AuBroncee Martin, a former public defender and current Alachua County Felony 1 Division chief, will face off come November. Data from the Florida Division of Elections puts Brewer ahead with $253,000 in contributions and $160,000 in disbursements compared to Martin’s $54,000 in contributions and $44,000 in disbursements.

Brewer’s seen top donations across chapters of the Police Benevolent Association, which has collectively donated $2,000. Martin has funded a significant portion of his campaign himself, contributing more than $25,000.

Contact Heather at hbushman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @hmb_1013.

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Heather Bushman

Heather Bushman is a fourth-year journalism and political science student and the enterprise elections reporter. She previously wrote and edited for the Avenue desk and reported for WUFT News. You can usually find her writing, listening to music or writing about listening to music. Ask her about synesthesia or her album tier list sometime.


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